The Debt 3 (Club Alpha)

By: Kelly Favor

Raven had just asked celebrity superstar Jake Novak to trust her, and judging from the look on his face, Jake wasn’t going for it.

Not one bit.

She couldn’t really blame him for being skeptical of the idea that they could repair his image problem by pretending to be in a relationship together. It was a long shot at best.

“Trust you?” he said, as if she’d just asked him to jump on a live grenade.

For some reason, she kept persisting. “Yes, trust me. Give me a chance, Jake, and if you don’t like the way it’s going you can always end things.”

He shook his head, but she could tell he was giving it serious thought. “The story won’t hold up,” he said, after a long pause. “It’ll look like a PR stunt—which is exactly what it would be.”

Raven smiled at him. “How can you be so sure it won’t work?”

“We’ve only known each other a few days,” he said. “If this crazy idea was going to have any chance, we’d need to have been dating a lot longer than that.”

“How would anyone know how long you and I’ve known each other?” she said.

The elevator doors had closed and now the two of them were simply facing each other in the hotel hallway, Jake still looking skeptically at her. “You don’t get it, Raven. This isn’t like going into school and telling your teacher that the dog ate your homework.”

“I know that.”

His brown eyes grew darker as he continued. “These reporters are going to look under every rock—they’re going to dig into every corner of your life.” He stepped closer to her. “Are you really ready to have your world turned upside?”

She was taken aback by his scrutiny. “I—I don’t know,” she said.

“Exactly,” he said, his expression triumphant. “You just broke down when I applied the tiniest bit of pressure. All your confidence went away and you were left wondering if you could do it. Well that’s not going to fly when Barbara fucking Walters starts interrogating you on national television.”

“Isn’t Barbara Walters retired?”

Jake sighed impatiently. “I don’t know. Maybe. And that’s not the point.”

“What is the point?”

“You can’t hack it,” Jake told her. “And even if you could, the media will pour through every story we tell, examine every tiny detail, and they’ll figure out we’re lying. Once they do that, I’ll be worse off then where I am now. And so will you.”

Raven shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. I think we can pull it off.”

“That’s because you’re naïve,” he said.

“No, I’m really not. How dare you tell me who and what I am? You don’t know anything about what I’ve been through in my life.” She had half a mind to slap him for how dismissive he was being. “You know, this is exactly why you have an image problem,” she said, pointing directly at him, finally poking him hard in his chest. It actually hurt her finger because his muscles were like iron.

“What does that mean?”

“It means that you’re being a jerk right now, just like you were in that stupid video. Maybe the reason this is happening to you, is because you haven’t changed since then. Maybe I’m not the one who can’t hack it, Jake. Did you ever consider that?” She turned on her heel and started walking back to her room.

Jake was impossible, she decided. He was so full of himself, so caught up in his own media hype that he’d actually started to believe all of the bullshit.

Good riddance, she thought, fury boiling in her stomach once again. The look of arrogance on his face! Calling her naïve, telling her she couldn’t hack it.

“Raven,” he called from behind her. “Hold on a second,” he said.

“Screw this,” she yelled, not looking back at him.

She started to actually run, got to her hotel room and quickly opened the door. She wanted to slam it in his face, hard.

But then he was at the door before she could close it. He braced his arm against the door and kept her from shutting it on him. “I’m an asshole,” he said. “I know that.”

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